Use some of the income tax to hold art seminars
EllieThere are so many elegant condominiums in Roppongi. How about making a law so that some of the income taxes paid by the rich people living in these places are used for art-related purposes such as holding seminars.
EllieYes. Art seminars for the rich people. I think if we do that, people who previously had no interest in art will familiarize themselves with it and begin to buy artworks. They might even hold parties to show each other the works they have bought. And things might gradually come to the point where people are boasting of their purchases, saying, "I bought the work so-and-so by the artist so-and-so". Then expensive works will be increasingly bought, which will profit the art industry. Also, I think they should let artists use the vacant condominiums.
UshiroI wonder if there are such vacant condominiums in Roppongi.
EllieI'm sure there must be dead spaces not being used. We could use them to do work in, turning them into ateliers.
UshiroToday you are making a mild proposal of using part of the income tax of rich people, but a few days ago, you were saying something about seizing their homes. (laughs)
EllieWell, yes. I just think all the spaces should be opened up.
UshiroI remember reading an article somewhere about a certain museum. A revolution took place and the palace that belonged to the royalty were opened to the general public. There were many works of art there and it naturally became an art museum. I just remembered that.
Roppongi has the Mori Art Museum, the Suntory Museum of Art and the National Art Center, Tokyo, and in my view, it already is an art town. Compared with New York, I think it's easier to understand. In thinking of plans for Roppongi, maybe it would help if we widen our horizons a bit and think in terms of Minato City. Minato City has bays like Odaiba which are kind of like Brooklyn and Chelsea in the sense that there is a similar distance from the downtown areas. But the strange thing about New York and other cities in the world where art is thriving, is that artists are able to cheaply rent warehouses in those kind of areas whereas in Tokyo, the rents for both warehouses and homes are expensive and there doesn't seem to be any vacancies.
EllieArtists are not people who are enormously rich. We don't have the space to make our works. I think there should be a better system to support artists and provide them with workplaces. That would help the growth of artists.
UshiroIf there really are any land or buildings that are not being used around the coasts of Minato City, I do think it would be a good idea to turn them into studios for artists. But I don't think there's much point in having the government take the initiative. Obviously, if you work in a large space your work will become large, and since there are three art museums nearby in Roppongi, more people from overseas would probably come on studio visits and Roppongi would quickly become an art town. But Roppongi museums seems to be somewhat distanced from the general public. MoMA faces the street and has liveliness. On opening parties of exhibitions, there are glittering black lights and a DJ who is pleasantly casual. That kind of thing is what you would expect in Roppongi, but for some reason, Japanese museums have the very opposite atmosphere of museums like MoMA. (laughs) Next to Minato City is Chiyoda City. When we compare Tokyo and New York, we see that New York is a new city which doesn't have much history, but in Tokyo, there are old towns, so Tokyo should theoretically be even more cultural than New York. Since there's new art in Minato City and Shibuya City, and traditional culture in Chiyoda City and Taito City, we actually have a fine balance. Yet Tokyo is so large and sprawling. I think the problem lies with Chiyoda City. The Imperial Palace used to be Edo Castle. I've heard that Tokyo was made like a large circle with Edo Castle at its center, but there is no castle there now. We've lost the center. I think that is why Tokyo is a sprawling city. So I really think we should have Edo Castle built again. It's something that we should be considering seriously - even more than the Olympics, don't you think? Foreigners who come here probably aren't that interested in going to places like Tokyo Tower.
EllieI spent the New Year's Eve at Tokyo Tower.
UshiroEllie-chan, you have a fondness for the neighborhood and love the Tokyo Tower too much! (laughs) Anyway, Japan has a long history, and if Minato City is going to become an art town, then we should have the Edo Castle in the neighboring city. With the Kaminarimon in Taito City, those places would combine to make up the cultural map of Tokyo.
A flatland type of castle which used to be a castle with the largest compounds in Japan. It was the location for the bakufu government since the start of the Edo bakufu until the Meiji Restoration. The castle was lost in the great fire (Meirekinotaika) of 1657. Only the base of the tower has been restored and its surroundings opened to the general public.
Making the door and planting the seeds
EllieWhen I suggested using part of the income tax to hold seminars, what I wanted to say is that the more people understand art, the more they will like it. So I think it's important to create a door for people to step into the world of art. After you have made the door, it's really important to properly give people pointers so that they will want to keep on making advances. If you could plant seeds to get people interested and make them think, "Oh, this is fun" then, the seeds will grow. That's why I think seminars should be held, and even people who are not interested should be dragged to them so that they can be given a chance to encounter art.
UshiroI see. I agree that it's important for people to have a discerning eye for genuine things. If people are just spending tons of money on worthless things, there would be no cultural development. But on the other hand, artists themselves should become more serious, don't you think? We talked about providing spaces for artists, but I have the feeling that things won't get exciting if everything is prepared for the artists' convenience. If artists became serious about agressively using art to create a town, they would have no need for people to tell them what they are allowed to do and how much they could do it. The first step is for artists to start living in a place in an ordinary way and then to start doing whatever that takes their fancy; the artists need to have this attitude of doing all that they can in their environmnent even if they don't have the money. Don't you like the bay areas, Ellie-chan?
EllieNo. They're too far away. I really hate Odaiba and those bay areas. They aren't cool.
UshiroBut the land prices and the rents are high in Roppongi.
EllieMaybe, but that's true for everybody whether they are artists or not. And I'm sure that there are vacant rooms in buildings and condominiums here.
UshiroIn that case, we should ask to have them made available. (laughs)
Roppongi Art Night 2013
An art event held March 23-24 that brought together the art museums, stores, the neighborhood and the people of the Roppongi area. The talk show by Ellie and Ushiro was held at the atrium where the huge arrow-sized object made by Chim↑Pom and BABOT was installed. The work, named "UUUU↑PPPP!!!!" was lit up during the night.
The huge garbage bag balloon which appeared on the Grass Square during Art Night was also a work by Chim↑Pom. Both children and adults jumped up and down on the trampoline set up inside. The installation was actually a work depicting humans as garbage.
Fondess for Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku
EllieUntil about two years ago, the town I liked most of all was definitely Roppongi. For about 10 years, I spent 300 days of the year having fun in Roppongi; I went into each and every establishment here. I also used to distribute tissues at the Roppongi crossing, and had a part-time cleaning job at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. I still like Roppongi, but I also like Shibuya. Roppongi, Shibuya and Shinjuku; my fondness for these three places cannot compare with any other. All the other places, I dislike. I'm not interested in visiting other places.
UshiroIt's a wonder how you can be like that and still manage to work in the field of art. When you need to go in other regions, you apparently become depressed and can't sleep at night. And there are so many opporunities for work overseas as well.
I also like Shiubya though. I make my works in Shibuya, and hold meetings there, so it's like a workplace to me.
EllieIt would be nice if there were places in museums where you could drink late into the night.
UshiroYes. Speaking of towns of interest, I'm very interested in Fukushima. Entry into the area within 20km of Fukushima used to be prohibited, but now the ban has been changed to a radius of about 10km. I'm keen to know what the town is like now and what will happen to it in the future.
EllieWhether you look at it from afar or from a close range, Fukushima is an area in Japan that draws attention. It is a place of deep interest.
UshiroThere are ghost towns everywhere in the world. Ghost towns in the countryside are usually places where everything has been cast aside and which nobody wants to go back to, but Fukushima is a place where people want to return to. There's a big difference between normal ghost towns and the ghost town in Fukushima, and that concerns me.
EllieI'm also very concerned about the Palestine problem, so I recently went to visit the Palestine Autonomous Areas.
UshiroYou keep saying that you hate leaving Shibuya and then about a week before your trip, you announce, "I'm going to Jerusalem next week". That was alarming.
EllieI was wondering about the Wailing Wall and thought I would like to look at it. I also wanted to see the places where Jesus Christ was born and where he was crucified. And when I got there, I realized that all the movements of Jesus were restricted to a small area. It takes about an hour and a half from Bethlehem where Jesus was born to the hill of Golgotha where he died. The place where the Last Supper was taken is about a 10-minute walk from Golgotha. All the places are close to each other. I realized this by seeing with my own eyes.
UshiroSo it's a bit like someone doing everything within Shibuya.
EllieIt's much smaller than Shibuya. It's more like doing everything in Yoyogi Park. Of course, Jesus preached, so he did go out to other places, but as for the places where he spent his last three days, they are all within a 15-minute walk from each other.
UshiroSo Jesus was fond of his neighborhood. (laughs)
EllieYes, he apparently was. The hill where the resurrection took place is also right nearby.
The Museum of Modern Art
New York's renowed modern art museum that has been called "the Modern" since the 1920s. The museum's first exhibition was of the post-modern impressionists and showed works by Cezanne, Gauguin, Seurat and Van Gogh.
Tokyo is not a prickly place
UshiroFavorite towns. I like the Khaosan Road in Thailand. There are lots of cheap lodgings for backpackers; I used to go there often, attracted to the casualness of the place. I love the warm weather too. There's a kind of prickliness in Japanese society but in Khaosan Road there is an easygoing mood, and it's nice that everyone is happily doing what they like.
EllieI have never ever felt, even for one second, that Tokyo is a prickly place. Everyone is so kind and nice. Everyone is working hard and trying to reach their goal. They don't have any weird pretenses either.
UshiroAren't people pretending to work hard most of the time?
EllieNo, no. Everyone is sincerely making an effort.
UshiroIf everyone really is making an effort, I wonder why Japan is kind of in a slump.
EllieThere are a few people who interfere and pull us back.
UshiroI see. (laughs) In other countries, there are people who make jokes even when they are on duty on part-time jobs. At a U.S. airport once, Inaoka-kun (member of Chim↑Pom) opened his luggage and the airport staff scolded him, telling him that it wasn't the place to do that, but on seeing his Adidas shoes inside, the person said, "Aah, nice shoes!" (laughs). People are spontanous and you can easily share a laugh with them. In Japan, you can't expect the workers at a convenience store to have that kind of attitude.
EllieI wouldn't want them to have that kind of attitude. I prefer silence. I really wish people wouldn't say things like, "We have warm weather today." I just wish people will just get on with their work. The good thing about Tokyo is that people usually don't say things like that.
Request for Roppongi: 24-hour stores
EllieI think there should be more stores in Roppongi that are open 24 hours a day. The number of such stores seem to have declined lately. Shinjuku is lively in that way; there used to be more 24-hour stores in Roppongi when I was a teenager.
Ushiro Yesterday, I came to Roppongi to carry in the artworks. I left the arrangements to another member, and things turned out so that I arrived at one o'clock at night and had to wait for the first morning train to go back home. Since the actual transportation of the artworks was scheduled at around four, I had absolutely nothing to do for about three hours. So I went out into the streets. It was my first time to properly wander around Roppongi; the place was really buzzing.
EllieBecause it was a Friday night.
UshiroPeople talk about the need to cheer up Japan, but I felt there is already enough liveliness.
EllieIt feels that way. But half the people in Roppongi are foreigners. I'm always wishing that they would all go back home.
UshiroWhat? Do you realize that you just turned half the people of Roppongi against you with that comment?! (laughs)
EllieI drink in Roppongi, thinking, "Everyone, go back to your native countries."
UshiroNo. Japan needs to become internationalized. I think the extent in Roppongi is just right. But I found out yesterday that it's not easy to find a place where you can drink on your own. I wanted to have a little drink but I had no idea where to go. I didn't want to risk going somewhere strange where I might have a frightening experience.
"PAVILION " exhibition
UshiroThe arrow object we are showing at this year's Roppongi Art Night was jointly made with BABOT-san. The producer of the event invited us to exhibit this piece because it is like an air balloon and has the image of something rising upward. When we did an exhibition at an art museum in Seoul, we made an arrow that was 23-meters tall. It was so huge that standing on the underground floor it was tall enough to go through the ceiling. From outside, it looked as if about a third of the art museum was occupied by the arrow. The arrow this time is about eight-meters.
EllieAfter this event, we are scheduled to have an exhibition at the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, aren't we?
UshiroThat's right. The "Pavilion" exhibition will be held at the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Aoyama until July 28. We are sure it will be a fun exhibition, so please do come. The mural by Taro Okamoto-san which was set up at the Shibuya station in 2011 will be the only old work to be exhibited; the rest will all be new works.
EllieRegarding the Shibuya mural, a lot of people said irritating things about the incident - that we had made scribbles and so on. Well, I don't really care, but I was a bit annoyed.
UshiroYou say you were annoyed, but I don't think you really were, Ellie-chan. You didn't respond to the criticism. And when I asked why, you said you believe that anyone who talks badly of Chim↑Pom will have misfortune for the next seven generations. (laughs)
An exhibition by Chim↑Pom held at the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art until July 28. A total of 15 new works of installations, film and photographs will be shown. Some works are "collaborations" with Taro Okamaoto's artworks. The exhibition is titled after the must-see work "PAVILION", which is made from the ashes of Taro Okamoto.
Period: March 31 (Sun) - July 28 (Sun) 2013.
LOVE Exhibition All You Need Is LOVE
From Chagall to Kusama and Hatsune Miku
An exhibition themed on love, marking the 10th anniversary of Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum. Around 200 works expressing the various forms of love will be on display. These will include historical masterpieces to be shown in Japan for the first time, works by celebrated contemporary artists, by both foreign and Japanese artists such as Chim↑Pom and also the virtual idol Hatsune Miku.
Period: April 26 (Fri) - Sept. 1 (Sun) 2013.